2013 Goals

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Last year, I made a set of writing goals for myself. Out of the five, I met two respectively and three if I’m fudging a bit. I got one of my fiction stories published. I got published in three of the journals my heart leaps for joy over ([PANK], CutBankand Third Coast), and I sort of kept up my writing ritual (this is the one I’d have to fudge on).

Here are my goals for 2013:

#1. Get my poetry manuscript, Swallow Tongue, accepted for publication. (Completing it in 2012 and having just done a major revision on it, this is a fantasy goal and may be on my goal list for years to come. Regardless, I want to put it out to the universe that it’s something I want and see what the universe has to say about it.)

#2. Get one of my creative nonfiction essays accepted for publication. (I was super surprised last year when in November, after working my butt off for a year editing and excising and submitting, I finally got notice that PANK had accepted one of my fiction stories for publication. A month and a day shy of 2013, but I still met that goal! Getting a fiction story published seemed like a nearly impossible goal, something I could only dream might happen. This year, I’m going to try the same with creative nonfiction. I wrote three essays in 2012 and with this goal in mind, I can definitely work on them and see what happens!)

#3. Write 30 50 poems. (Last year, I wrote 25 poems. This year I want to try for more. I also like that this goal has a specific number.)

#4. Submit high. (My submitting process is holding pretty steady, and I just want to continue to submit to journals that daunt me with how cool they are. Maybe one day I’ll grace their pages.)

#5. Do something special just for my writing. (While last year I set a goal to get into Bread Loaf, I probably won’t be applying this year. I need to reserve my vacation for spending time with my two best friends who happen to live in two different states. Maybe I’ll be able to attend a conference or a retreat, but I want to leave myself open to exploring other writing things, like doing a poem-a-day for some length of time, which I’ve never been brave enough to do before.)

While I didn’t meet all of my goals last year, I made some big strides, and I’m looking forward to seeing how this next year pans out.

What are your literary goals for 2013?

New endeavors

After a year-long hiatus from working for a literary journal, I’m pleased to announce that I will now be reading for Fjords Review, an absolutely lovely journal. I’m so excited about this new endeavor, and I hope you will consider submitting your best poetry and fiction!

~

In other news, I went running this morning (a slow, slow progress, since I’m re-training after re-injuring an old injury) and started thinking about a creative nonfiction essay I wrote the day of my surgery. I’ve been thinking about it off and on since I wrote it, but haven’t been able to figure out how to approach it. I gave it to a friend to read over, but that was it. Finally, today, I came back from that run and edited it and even came up with an ending, when it had none before.

Sometimes, changing genres is exactly what I need to do. I read once that anytime you get to point in your writing where you’re stuck, try changing the form, or even the genre. I’ve had trouble with figuring out whether a poem needed to be in couplets or quatrains, so I changed it to prose. Seeing it as that block of text helped me figure out how to shape it. Topics I haven’t been able to broach in poetry (like my surgery, my trip to Greece, etc.), I’ve been able to express in fiction or creative nonfiction. There can be so much versatility in being a poet; there’s always a potential to switch, to envision space. I make up it’s a great deal harder for prose writers to make that switch, to shrink than to expand (any of you prose writers feel differently?).

Happy writing!

Video: “How to Get Your [insert genre] Pulled from the Slush Pile”

–Excerpt from a panel from AWP

Here Kristen Iversen, Editor-in-chief, talks about how The Pinch goes about selecting pieces from the slush pile. Her comments could be applied to any genre, though the finer points of editing really connect more with prose.

Then Tom Useted, the Managing Editor for the Spring 2013 issue, talks specifically about “Touch” by Steve Adams, the creative nonfiction piece that opens my issue (as Managing Editor), Spring 2012, of The Pinch.

Turning over a new leaf

I’ve been done with most of my responsibilities since the 15th, but it’s taken me 5 days to recover and get back to business on here. We approved the final bluelines for The Pinch on the 15th, and it’ll be in stores around the country and in your mailboxes by mid-February.

Since The Pinch‘s Managing Editor position only lasts a semester, I am done, and I feel some sadness about that. It’s been an absolutely wonderful experience. I have learned so much about managing, editing, and writing, as well as submitting. I hope every writer has the chance, at some point, to work or read for a literary journal, and that EVERY potential MFA student chooses a school where they have a chance to work for a literary journal. It’s truly invaluable experience.

I’ve written here a lot about what I’ve learned about the submission process, but I’ll add some things:

-The Pinch receives a wealth of good poetry in its slush pile. Great poetry to choose from more often than not. Thus, poets really have the short end of the stick. A poem needs to really jump out to stand apart from the mass of good poetry we already get. I’m not necessarily talking about having an experimental form, but when an editor reads through tons and tons of submissions (and our genre editors definitely do), the poem needs to really hit him or her in the face with its interesting imagery, language, etc.  I imagine it’s like this for most journals that publish poetry, thus poets really have an uphill battle when it comes to getting published. The Pinch publishes a wide breadth of poetry, from form poems (we would love to publish more form poems, but form is hard, and most of the form poems we see either don’t make the form covert OR the poem’s just not interesting on its own) to more experimental poems. We publish maybe one very short poem with really sparse lines per issue, if that. Short, sparse poems usually seem too boiled down, and that’s not usually what we want. We accepted four prose poems for our Spring 2012 issue.

-We receive a lot of not-so-great fiction. It’s edgy, but doesn’t have any depth (weird, gratuitous sex for no other reason, for example). It’s a bathtub story (as in, a character is in a single, confined space for the entirety of the story and has little interaction with the outside world), which can sometimes be good, but usually is not. The story doesn’t have a clear sense of place. We don’t know enough about the characters to understand their motivations. The premise or situation is common and doesn’t add anything new (girlfriend/boyfriend cheats or wants to cheat). Since we don’t receive a lot of great fiction in the slush pile, we usually get a bulk of the fiction we publish from soliciting other authors, whether well-established or emerging. We solicit authors for all genres, but we wish we got more good fiction in our slush pile to choose from. We want to publish emerging authors.

In 5,000 words or less, we want fiction that has emotional depth, that really brings us into a character’s life for a moment. We want action. We want well-done flashbacks. We want to know these characters. Most people who read for a journal decide by the first or second page whether it will be a piece that they will keep reading. Editors apply this to the work we read because that’s how our readers read stories in our journal. If we aren’t interested or brought in by the first second or page, our readership probably won’t be either. The 6 people who read your submission will read it in its entirety, but if they aren’t interested by the first or second page, you’ve probably already lost ’em. Make your first 1-2 pages engaging and punchy. Get to the chase quickly. Start with some action. Editors don’t have time to follow you through your slow-paced story unless you earn it from the get-go, either with lovely language or good, clear action.

Our creative nonfiction slush pile is always small. Creative nonfiction writers really have the best chance of getting published, at least in our journal and most likely others, because you are competing against so few others. But we don’t get many pieces in our slushpile that we choose to publish. Most of the creative nonfiction I can remember us getting is memoir. Memoir needs to be situated in a larger context. None of us live in a vacuum, even if your mother died or your drug addiction spiraled out of control, you don’t live in a vacuum. You still have this greater world you interact with that SHOULD somehow be included in your piece. We don’t get many personal essays. We particularly like creative nonfiction that pushes at the genre. We published a piece that worked as a poetic interview in the Fall 2011 issue.

-When you send your work out, send out your best. Honestly. This doesn’t mean that you should agonize over a piece ad infinitum, but do a revision, even if it doesn’t seem perfect, at least one last time. Run it through the spellchecker. Have someone read over it for typos, glaring coherency problems. When genre editors read work, they are looking for reasons to reject it. It’s just the nature of our jobs. We read through SO MANY that we have to weed a lot before we finally settle on one we all like. Each piece for The Pinch is read by 6 different people. If one editor doesn’t like a submission, but the other 5 do, it’ll get published. You still want to eliminate silly reasons for your piece to get rejected like horrendous spelling errors, which make most editors twitch in pain. Things like that basically convey that you didn’t care enough to take the time to check over your work before submitting it. This is MOST important in fiction and creative nonfiction submissions.

-Be polite about sending your work. Follow submission guidelines. Nothing irks an editor more than when someone clearly hasn’t read the guidelines. One poet has sent us packets of 40 poems at a time multiple times in a reading period. That’s simply insane and completely disrespectful of us and the hard job we already have to do. We ask for a MAXIMUM of 5 poems at a time so we can give every poem the same level of attention. It’s not fair to anyone if someone rudely sends in 80 million poems. QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY. At The Pinch, the genre editors log all of the hard copy submissions and usually remember names because they’ve been with your work every step of the process (logging, reading, rejecting or accepting, etc.). If you over and over again choose not to follow the guidelines, the editors will notice and start to badmouth you. Your work may be splendid, but you don’t want an editor to dislike you, at any step of the process. Politeness always.